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Lawmakers slam EPA carbon plan in Senate field hearing in W.Va. coal county

Plummeting local county budgets and job losses were on focusat a U.S. Senate field hearing held Oct. 5, that put the U.S. EPA's Clean PowerPlan in the crosshairs.

Jimmy "Bo" Copley became emotional while hetestified that he was a former employee of an subsidiary in Holden,W.Va., until he lost his job in September 2015. He said young people "seehopelessness" in the communities, and many of them are moving away.

"While coal is not a renewable energy source, I believethat [God] has given us this energy source to provide clean and affordableenergy," he told the three West Virginia lawmakers presiding over the U.S.Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety field hearing held Oct. 5 inLogan County, W.Va., on the impact of U.S. EPA regulations on the state.

"You can't regulate what's not been legislated,"said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., about the EPA's carbon plan at the hearing.

Robert Pasley,the Wayne County Commission president, said mines in the county have closeddown and coal severance revenue that has been lost with their disappearance hasled to less money going toward public services like local fire departments,police and senior citizens projects.

"The forecast for the foreseeable future has been verybleak," Pasley said.

Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., who was invited to the Senatehearing said that "times are tough" in Logan County. "There is awar on coal. We can see it, we can feel it, we can actually taste it here insouthern West Virginia," he said. "As coal mines shut down,communities have less and less and have had to make tough choices."

Witness James Van Nostrand, director of the Center forEnergy and Sustainable Development and an associate law professor at WestVirginia University, said the major drivers of the job loss in the state werenot the Clean Power Plan or international climate agreements, but the economicsand geology of the state. He said everything the state is doing is wrong interms of positioning itself for future economic recovery, suggesting that itwould be wise to take advantage of the way the market is headed. The stateshould invest in energy efficiency and renewables, he said.

"We're getting killed by friendly fire," he said,referencing legislative activity taken by state lawmakers.

Witness Eugene Trisko, counsel for the United Mine Workersof America, countered that suggestion, saying that West Virginia cannot takeadvantage of solar power because it is not well-positioned to get a lot of sun,particularly enough to benefit the kind of large-scale solar facilities thatoperate in the U.S. Southwest.

However, another witness, Karan Ireland, the programdirector of West Virginia Solar United Neighborhoods, a nonprofit organizationthat works with small communities and solar installations, said the state gets85% of the sun that Florida gets. "We're well-situated to go solar,"she said, referring to household or small business installations.